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The impossibility of dealing with HMRC

HMRC correspondence trends

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I've had 2 letters from HMRC recently, for specifically named clients, that carry no return address or contact telephone number. There's no way of contacting anyone directly about the content of the letters.  I see that others here have mentioned the same phenomenon on correspondence on other matters. Yes, it mildly irritates me to get such unprofessional letters from HMRC but what I really object to is their arrogance in adopting a policy that is clearly designed to stiffle any possible engagement with agents by sending out unilateral missives from inside an impenetrable bunker. Or are they just being pragmatic and finally acknowledging something we have known for ages - that it is completely futile trying to make contact with anyone who can actually help at HMRC?

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Oaklea
By Chris.Mann
10th Aug 2020 13:55

The effects of Covid-19 apart, HMRC really do seem to have stooped to the lowest levels.

I've just completed assisting a client, whose husband recently died and in her (direct) dealings with HMRC, was treated absolutely appallingly, a fact which has been acknowledged, by the officer who has subsequently dealt with the case and who has authorised my additional professional charges.

However, to add insult to injury, my client has contacted me, this morning, to advise that, as a direct result of HMRC's incompetence, she's now received a late filing penalty assessment, which will of course require a formal appeal and as I've said to my client, this will fall at my expense.

When, oh when, will this once respected organisation, have a radical overhaul and attempt to become a useful agency of HM Government, rather than being the embarrassment which it has now become?

One thing you can count on, however. No matter how low the level of services and incompetence exists, as sure as eggs are eggs, it will be "arise Sir Jim (Harra)"!

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By bernard michael
10th Aug 2020 14:27

The answer is simple NEVER

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By Tax Dragon
10th Aug 2020 15:25

I could join in the HMRC-bashing (it actually is impossible to speak with some teams at HMRC - and yes that's deliberate).

But for most things, and if there isn't a CRM, just phone the usual number or write to the usual address. Easy. You (so HMRC believes) don't need to speak to the person that wrote the letter. (And that's deliberate too, so you can't queue-jump by calling.)

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
10th Aug 2020 15:41

That's much too rational a response for this thread. Where's your pitch fork TD?

Since we're doing a bit of HMRC bashing anyway, I'll add my whine for the day into the mix.

We amended a return back in November last year. The amendment was online, but for some reason required to be manually input. There was a £7k figure missed off during manual processing which turned a £3k repayment for our client into a £4k tax bill. Various letter and calls since, and I am told today that it'll be a further 2 weeks to finally sort this.

It will now have taken well over 9 months, 8 of which we've been chasing them to highlight the error, to process a relatively simple return. A single figure has been missed.

A human can be conceived and grown in that time, but HMRC can't input a single figure into a return.

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Replying to Lone_Wolf:
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By Tax Dragon
10th Aug 2020 15:57

Whining might suit wolves. But pitch forks are a health hazard to dragons. (They get stuck when used as toothpicks.)

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Replying to Lone_Wolf:
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By bernard michael
11th Aug 2020 10:51

Lone_Wolf wrote:

That's much too rational a response for this thread. Where's your pitch fork TD?

Since we're doing a bit of HMRC bashing anyway, I'll add my whine for the day into the mix.

We amended a return back in November last year. The amendment was online, but for some reason required to be manually input. There was a £7k figure missed off during manual processing which turned a £3k repayment for our client into a £4k tax bill. Various letter and calls since, and I am told today that it'll be a further 2 weeks to finally sort this.

It will now have taken well over 9 months, 8 of which we've been chasing them to highlight the error, to process a relatively simple return. A single figure has been missed.

A human can be conceived and grown in that time, but HMRC can't input a single figure into a return.


But not an elephant which HMRC more resembles
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By K81
10th Aug 2020 15:51

maybe we need a return to when HMRC were Inland Revenue & had different offices for different areas & you could actually phone a direct line & speak to the tax officer dealing with your clients tax!

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Replying to K81:
Ivor Windybottom
By Ivor Windybottom
10th Aug 2020 16:01

Crazy fool!

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Replying to K81:
Oaklea
By Chris.Mann
10th Aug 2020 16:02

A taxpayers' file, securely held in a filing cabinet, used to work, until not long ago. It was as near foolproof, as one could reasonably expect.

Of course, times move on. We all appreciate that. However, if any of the HMRC hierarchy honestly believe that the systems don't need radical review, it really is, heaven help us.

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Replying to K81:
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By ruth.julian
11th Aug 2020 09:48

When HMRC was formed, there were over 93000 staff, now somewhere about 53000. Both legacy departments and HMRC were taken over by consultants who had no idea how tax services operate (there are over 40 Excise regimes to start with, let alone the subdivisions within VAT, Corporation and Income tax). So staff were reduced (mostly the qualified and experienced people) to be replaced by digital services, and an army of call handlers recruited with no training in the tax systems they are working from automated response systems. Even their immediate managers are unlikely to have been trained and worked in these taxes. The mantra was move the job not the people, which further diluted the pool of knowledge. It's not surprising the quality of service from HMRC is in the present dire state where finding someone who knows what they are talking about is a refreshing surprise.

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Replying to K81:
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By LAMBERTCLERICAL
11th Aug 2020 10:28

I remember the good times when I used to present myself at the Tax Office, several files under my arm, to be shown into a small meeting room , and then a taxman appearing with his own pile of files. And then the horse-trading commenced. Ten minutes or two hours later, either a conclusion or at least progress towards one.
Good God - am I REALLY that old?!

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
10th Aug 2020 16:53

I started my day with a call from HMRC who responded to a letter from 2 and a half weeks ago, and gave me all he required information I asked for in the letter.

I thanked her kindly, and pointed out I wish all the calls I had with HMRC would be as pleasant. She said much the same to me and told me here next few calls were to agents who from their correspondance didnt have a fugging clue about the issue in hand, and it was refreshing to speak to one who did.

its cuts both ways!.

NB I do agree however that the "unable to call back" is a nightmare as you end up attaching a stream of correspondence each time to show the whole set up rather than speaking to a real person who deals with it.

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RLI
By lionofludesch
10th Aug 2020 18:10

I'm still waiting for a reply to a letter I sent in November 2002.

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Replying to lionofludesch:
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By Tax Dragon
10th Aug 2020 18:34

Might be worth dropping them a reminder.

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
RLI
By lionofludesch
10th Aug 2020 23:07

Luckily, I'm more than happy to let it lie.

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By arthvirg230
11th Aug 2020 09:49

I think you're al missing the point here - HMRC have been useless for at least the past 2-3 years. Here's my quick guide to getting things done:
1. if you need to phone them - do this BEFORE 9am - then you'll get through - otherwise it's 2 hours sat in a queue.
2. If you have an issue and its not being resolved then LODGE A COMPLAINT. A nice lady from the complaints team in Cardiff will then call you and the matter is resolved within a few days.
Very simple really - and this of course leads to far less stress and grey hairs.

thanks!

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Replying to arthvirg230:
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By bernard michael
11th Aug 2020 11:06

arthvirg230 wrote:

I think you're al missing the point here - HMRC have been useless for at least the past 2-3 years. Here's my quick guide to getting things done:
1. if you need to phone them - do this BEFORE 9am - then you'll get through - otherwise it's 2 hours sat in a queue.
2. If you have an issue and its not being resolved then LODGE A COMPLAINT. A nice lady from the complaints team in Cardiff will then call you and the matter is resolved within a few days.
Very simple really - and this of course leads to far less stress and grey hairs.

thanks!


Unfortunately the law of diminishing returns means that if we all did it.they'd need a dept dealing with complaints about the complaints dept
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Replying to bernard michael:
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By arthvirg230
11th Aug 2020 14:37

you say that, but it works.... and i'm far less stressed as a result.......:)

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By Rgab1947
11th Aug 2020 10:02

I admit HMRC bashing is one of my favourite past times. Excuses all my mistakes blaming HMRC and after all its the tax man. They never had good press.

Yes they can get it wrong often but my direct dealings (I never phone. Life is too short) has always been good. They phone me, I co-operate, they give me email adresses and I give them what they ask and all sorted. I get a problem (their mistake) and write. Last one 1 month ago was sorted this week with copy of doc agreeing with me.

So there is good in HMRC as well as some good staff.

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By Echo761
11th Aug 2020 11:24

I do agree that "HMRC Bashing" is often the first port of call - but it is sign of the growing frustration with advisers and agents which is due to the long-running decline in HMRC's services and non-compliance with their own deadlines, guidelines, charter (currently up for review...) and lack of trained and experienced staff. HMRC take a "Nelsonian eye" view of the problems within HMRC. But this is not unexpected as they have lost large amounts of staff and experience. There are still good staff in HMRC but they are swamped by the others - with the "call centre scripts".
It is draining when trying to resolve issues with HMRC and the additional time and expense involved.
If HMRC truly want to improve they need to have a root and branch review of their approach.

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Replying to Echo761:
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By Tax Dragon
11th Aug 2020 12:22

Echo761 wrote:

If HMRC truly want to improve they need to have a root and branch review of their approach.

Improve? In what way? For whom? Who knows [well, intriguingly there are one or two contributors here that actually might], maybe the Government thinks HMRC is doing a fine job! Why on earth do people in here think HMRC exists to help and benefit accountants and tax advisors?

(I am being my usual agent provocateur self, so take some of the above with a pinch of salt - but only a small pinch, please.)

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
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By Echo761
11th Aug 2020 13:54

"so take some of the above with a pinch of salt - but only a small pinch, please."... or
Just ignore you... ha ha ha

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Replying to Echo761:
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By Tax Dragon
11th Aug 2020 14:06

:-)

But it's not just you - it seems a lot of my questions in here go unanswered. (I'm already having to use my toes to keep count this week alone.)

I'm thick-skinned (clue's in the name) but I will get the hint eventually.

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
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By whitevanman
12th Aug 2020 20:36

It is evident that you have not been reading the annual reports of the Board of HMRC. I don't believe there is scope for improvement to any great extent!! This is just typical whining from those who have nothing better to do.
As has been mentioned elsewhere, there were 93,000 staff about 12 years ago. Today only 53,000 and doing far better than they ever did. The saving in yearly salary costs alone must be around £1.3bn. Some may think that a department (minister?) that didn't give a toss, would feel it worth making a few whiners unhappy in order to save that type of money.
Also, the department is now so fragmented that I doubt anyone could find a branch, much less a root, to review.

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Replying to whitevanman:
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By Echo761
13th Aug 2020 07:44

Ha ha ha your funny. Keep it up.

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Replying to Echo761:
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By whitevanman
13th Aug 2020 10:15

No. What is funny is the annual report(s) which continue to show ever better performance by HMRC.

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Replying to whitevanman:
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By Echo761
13th Aug 2020 12:55

Ah apologies White van man, I missed you were being sarcastic. I thought you had swallowed all the BS in HMRC's report.

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Replying to Echo761:
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By whitevanman
13th Aug 2020 16:12

I am devastated that anyone should think my "praise" of HMRC could be anything but sarcastic. As to the BS, the only chasm large enough to accommodate that, is the gap between the politicians and the people they, supposedly, represent.

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Replying to whitevanman:
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By Tax Dragon
13th Aug 2020 17:09

whitevanman wrote:

Also, the department is now so fragmented that I doubt anyone could find a branch, much less a root, to review.

There's two sides to every coin. If HMRC became all nicely joined up and started doing its job properly and all those other things that people seem to want to happen, I wonder whether the consequences would all be as people might hope.

There'd be more enquiries, for a start. Those enquiries would be conducted more thoroughly and with greater chance of unearthing things people might prefer weren't unearthed.

Tax planning would come under greater scrutiny.

It might not be that unlikely that the country would recover the £1.3bn, and then some, by way of greater tax take.

Maybe someone should suggest it.

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
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By whitevanman
13th Aug 2020 17:50

I agree, except it is all hypothetical.
The "evidence" says they have spent £x m on additional staff to tackle such avoidance and bring in £oodles m in return. Problem is that the figures of what they bring in are far from reliable. Also, as many have observed before, standards are not great and there is no saying they would be any better at doing all the things you mention. As a tax payer I wish it was not so. As a cynic I suspect it is / would be.

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By Gone Sailing
11th Aug 2020 14:03

Around 8 to 10 years ago I voluntarily attended 'agent consulation meetings'. It was clear they were picking accountants' brains, and they didn't have much of a clue, particularly about tech.

The meetings stopped after the second or third.

They have been cutting us out ever since, eg. the SA agents line was not rolled out further.

I can't figure out what part 'self-file' Self Assessments have to play, and how it changed their mind set, and whether they have attempted to evaluate any lost revenue as a result of self-file.

They simply cannot get into their heads how much time and money we could save them if only they communicated efficiently.

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By brian-scholar
11th Aug 2020 16:43

I wonder if other countries have similar problems with their tax authorities?

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Replying to gillybean04:
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By Echo761
12th Aug 2020 08:44

... and? It's a much use as an ashtray on a motorbike!

Typically no dedicated helpline for VAT agents.
"Other taxes, duties or specialist teams
If you need contact details for a tax and duty that doesn’t have an agent dedicated telephone number or address, you can search the list of HMRC contacts."

And so begins the merry go round!

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By Anthony G Thorne
12th Aug 2020 18:10

Does the failure to include contact details suggest that it is suspicious?

I have written to HMRC Head Office advising that call from withheld numbers are not answered as a matter of policy and then they write complaining that I do not answer their calls.

In one case when I answered a call and they wanted me to go through security but I said as they were phoning me then they needed to go through my security which they failed but they got very upset.

There needs to be a total rethink of the HMRC communications procedures to ensure they are fit for the 21st century which complies with GDPR and AML procedures.

As someone I knew used to say they need a "reality check"

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Replying to Anthony G Thorne:
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By Gone Sailing
12th Aug 2020 19:08

Ditto, and absolutely spot on.

Someone needs to tell them about email.

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Replying to Gone Sailing:
RLI
By lionofludesch
12th Aug 2020 19:24

The way to deal with email is to set up an address for each case and then scrap it once the case is settled.

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Morph
By kevinringer
17th Aug 2020 13:13

Re the unprofessional letter: the recent MTD letter is a good example. HMRC issued it to all businesses with turnover >£85k that were not filing MTD VAT returns: including all businesses for whom HMRC had issued written confirmation of exemption. HMRC's letter had no phone number, no means of contacting them which said to me HMRC are so arrogant they don't expect anyone to need to contact them. It was taken up with the PBs who took it up with HMRC and resulted in HMRC issuing a letter of apology. I would much rather HMRC acted professionally in the first place.

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